Chocolate pithiviers

This month, two of my favourite blogging challenges (hosted by two of my favourite bloggers) teamed up to create one behemoth of a challenge – We Should Cocoa meets Random Recipes.

Choclette at Chocolate Log Blog and Dom at Belleau Kitchen wanted us to randomly select a recipe to bake this month, but it had to be one involving chocolate. As I have three books dedicated solely to chocolate, I used a random number generator to pick one of them, and then asked my housemate to choose a page number to select my bake.

The book chosen was Green & Black’s Ultimate Chocolate Recipes, and the recipe was Simon Hopkinson’s Chocolate Pithiviers.

Initially I was a little daunted – it involved time consuming homemade puff pastry, and creme patissiere which I’ve never tried making before, but in the spirit of RR I embraced the challenge and dedicated my Sunday to baking.

I was super happy with how these turned out – the creme patissiere was easier than I expected, lump-free and lush tasting, and the pastry puffed properly, with actual discernible layers!

The only thing I felt that let it down was the filling, which could have just done with another depth of flavour, but overall they were definitely a success.

Thanks Choclette and Dom for making me try a recipe I would have never chosen otherwise!

Chocolate pithiviers (from Green & Black’s Ultimate Chocolate Recipes)

For the pastry:

  • 225g butter
  • 225g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 250ml iced water
  • juice of half a lemon

For the filling:

  • 250ml milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 75g sugar
  • 25g plain flour
  • 3 medium egg yolks
  • 110g butter
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 100g chopped dark chocolate
  • 1 egg beaten, to wash

To make the pastry, finely chop the butter and mix into the flour and salt, but don’t rub it in – leave the butter in lumps. Stir in the water and lemon juice and bring together into a dough. Turn it out onto a floured work surface and roll into a rectangle, roughly 18x10cm. Fold the top third down lengthways, then fold the bottom third over that. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes, then take it out, turn it 90 degrees, and repeat the rolling and folding. Do this 5 more times – that’s an hour of chilling, rolling and folding!

For the creme patissiere, heat the milk and vanilla in a saucepan until it reaches boiling point. Whisk the sugar, flour and egg yolks until light and fluffy, then slowly pour in the milk, whisking as you go. Return to the saucepan and stir over a low heat, until it thickens to a consistency a bit thicker than custard. Leave to cool completely.

Beat the remaining 110g sugar with the butter until light and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time. Beat in the cocoa powder and almonds, then finally fold in the cooled creme patissiere and the chopped chocolate, and chill again.

To make the pithiviers, roll out the pastry and cit into four 10x10cm squares and four 15x15cm squares. Place the smaller squares on a baking sheet and dollop a good amount of the filling in the middle (you will have way too much filling though so don’t try to use it all).

Brush the beaten egg around the edges of pastries, then place the larger squares on top and press down to seal. Cut into circles, leaving about 1cm around the filling. Remove the trimmings, then press down all around the edges with a fork. Re-roll the trimmings into another 10cm square and another 15cm square and repeat the process, so you have 5 altogether.

Brush the pithiviers with more egg wash, then score them lightly to get the sort of spirally pattern you can see on mine. Dust with icing sugar, then bake at 200 degrees – the recipe says for 15-20 minutes but mine took nearly an hour to crisp up underneath, no idea why! Serve hot with a dollop of cream – delicious ūüôā

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As this month’s Tea Time Treats challenge, hosted by Karen at Lavender and Lovage, is all about chocolate I’m going to enter these for that as well – three challenges in one, brilliant!

tea time treats

Patisserie Romanian style

While in Targoviste, our host Valentin took us to his favourite patisserie in town so we could sample some traditional Romanian baked goods.

I was lucky enough to visit twice, so I got to sample lots of different things, including a savoury cheese pastry, apple strudel, a sweet cream cheese filled bread and my personal favourite, a panettone rippled with a delicious pecan mixture which I would love to find a recipe for.

We were also treated so some of Valentin’s grandmother’s home baking, two different types of layered cakes, one with chocolate and vanilla and the other with apricot, chocolate and a meringue layer on top. Both were delicious, but I especially enjoyed the meringue and is another recipe which I will definitely have to try and recreate at home.

There is so much good food here to try that my team members will probably have to roll me off the plane when we get back as I’ll be too fat to walk, but in the name of research I will keep eating and posting about everything I try!

Caramel apple and almond tart

Caramel apple and almond tart

As soon as I saw this tart posted over on Apple & Spice, I knew it had to be baked.

How could apples, caramel and frangipane ever be a bad combination?!

As I suspected, the three made very happy companions in their sweet pastry case; so much so that the pony devoured the tart at record speed and I barely got a look in.

The tiny sliver of this I did manage to steal wasn’t anywhere near enough,¬† and I will definitely have to make it again in the near future so I can have a proper slice.

I changed Katie’s pasty recipe to my usual sweet shortcrust as I didn’t need it to be gluten free, but if you are on a GF diet I would definitely give hers a go. I also left out the peanut brittle, just because I didn’t have any, but to be honest I think the tart is special enough without.

Served warm it’s definitely more of a winter dessert, but I think it would also work well cold as we finally move into spring – either way it’s a winner!

Caramel apple and almond tart (adapted from Apple & Spice)

For the pastry:

  • 125g plain flour
  • 25g caster sugar
  • 65g butter

For the filling:

  • 150g tinned caramel (about half a tin of Carnation)
  • 3 granny smith apples
  • 55g butter
  • 55g caster sugar
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 55g ground almonds
  • 10g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar

To make the pastry, rub together the butter and flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar. Add cold water a teaspoonful at a time, cutting through the mixture with a knife, adding more water until it starts to clump together. Use your hands to squash the dough into a ball, then chill in the fridge for half an hour. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and use to line a fluted flan dish – I think mine is about 10″ which makes quite a shallow tart.

Chill the pastry for another half hour, then blind bake at 180 degrees for 10 minutes, then remove the baking beans and paper and bake for a further 5-10 minutes, or until golden. Take out of the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes, then spread the caramel in an even layer all over the bottom.

For the filling, beat together the butter and sugar, then add the egg and almond extract. Fold in the almonds and flour, then spread this on top of the caramel. Peel, core and slice the apples, then arrange in a fanned out pattern on top of the tart. Katie’s top tip is to keep the apples in a bowl of iced water with a drop of lemon juice in to stop them going brown while you’re chopping the rest – it works well!

Sprinkle the tablespoon of caster sugar over the top of the tart, then bake at 180 degrees for 30-40 minutes – check it’s done by poking a knife into one of the apple slices, if it’s cooked it will slide through with no resistance. Serve warm or cold, up to you!

Apple pie

Apple Pie

Apple pie has been on my to-bake list for forever, and I really don’t know why I’ve taken so long to get around to making it – I love apples, love pie, it’s easy to make, doesn’t need any fancy ingredients and it’s perfect for the autumn/winter. I must have been mad for not making one sooner!

I did fancify this one a little bit by trying out a cream cheese pastry and adding a caramel sauce, but as baking goes it’s still very much at the simple end of the scale. If you can chop apples and press the ‘on’ button of a food processor you’re basically good to go!

I didn’t fall in love with the cream cheese pastry, apart from cutting calories I can’t really see any major benefit to it, but overall I loved the pie and would definitely make it again. It’s such a traditional favourite I don’t think there are many people who would turn down a slice!

Apple pie

For the pastry

  • 75g butter
  • 75g light cream cheese
  • 300g plain flour
  • 25g icing sugar

For the filling

  • 6 large granny smith apples
  • 3 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 25g butter
  • 2 tbsp creme fraiche

To make the pastry, add the flour and sugar to a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the butter and cream cheese and blitz until it goes past being breadcrumb-like and starts to come together into a dough. With the food processor running, slowly pour alittle cold water down the chute, until the dough forms a ball that leaves the sides of the blender. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Divide the dough into two pieces, one roughly twice the size of the other. Roll out the larger piece of dough and use to line a 10″ fluted flan tin, or smaller high-sided ¬†pie tin if you prefer. Roll out the smaller piece and use a star-shaped biscuit cutter to cut as many stars as you can, re-rolling and cutting until all the dough has been used up.

For the filling, peel and core the apples, chop into quarters, lengthways, then cut into fairly thin slices. Toss in a bowl with the cinnamon, nutmeg and 1tbsp of the sugar, then spread evenly on top of the pie crust. To make the caramel, melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the rest of the sugar, stirring until it starts to bubble and thicken. Whisk in the creme fraiche, then pour over the apples.

Finish the pie placing the pastry stars all over top, making sure they slightly overlap each other. Brush with egg wash or milk, then bake at 180 degrees for about an hour, or until the apples are tender and cooked through. You can cover the pie with foil if the pastry starts to brown too much. Cut into wedges and serve!

Raspberry and white chocolate tarts

These tarts aren’t at all what I was planning on baking at the weekend.

I wanted to make a blueberry buckle, but everywhere I went the price of blueberries was extortionate – I thought being in season made things cheaper?! As the recipe called for 4 or 5 packs, that plan swiftly went out the window.

Raspberries on the other hand were only £1.25 per punnet, so I bought some of those instead and decided to use up the last of my raspberry curd in these little tarts.

White chocolate is a classic partner for raspberry, and I had a spare 100g cream cheese from another recipe (to be posted soon) so that sorted out the other layer of the tarts – and in the end I think everything came together rather nicely!

I think some of the best things I’ve made have come about from using what I have to hand rather than following a recipe, and these are a great example of that – although the¬†buckle is still on my to-bake list, just as soon as I spy a blueberry bargain…

Raspberry and white chocolate tarts

Makes 4 individual tarts

  • 50g butter
  • 100g plain flour
  • 25g icing sugar
  • 8 tbsp raspberry curd
  • 100g cream cheese
  • 65g white chocolate
  • icing sugar to taste
  • 150g raspberries

To make the pastry, sieve together the flour and sugar, then rub in the butter until the mixture forms a fine breadcrumb-like texture. Add in a tiny bit of water and cut through the mixture with a butter knife – it should start to come together into a dough, but if you have any dry crumbs around the edges of the bowl add a little more water. Knead the dough briefly, then chill for half an hour.

Once chilled, divide the dough into four equal pieces and roll each out into a circle about 12cm round. Lay the pastry into 10cm round tart tins, prick the bottom with a fork and return to the fridge for an hour or so.

When you’re ready to bake the tarts, line with baking paper and baking beans (or dry rice/pasta) and blind bake for 10 minutes, then remove the paper and beans and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes, or until crisp and just starting to go golden. Unfortunately I got distracted taking photos of something else so mine are a little browner on the edges than I would have liked…

Melt 15g of the white chocolate and use to brush the bases of the tarts. This will help stop the curd making the pastry go soggy. When the chocolate has set, spread 2 tbsp raspberry curd into the bottom of each, and chill in the fridge while you make the white chocolate layer.

Melt the remaining 50g white chocolate then beat into the cream cheese until well mixed. You can add an extra pinch of icing sugar at this point if you want, depending on how sweet you want the tarts to be. As the raspberry curd was quite runny, I piped the white chocolate mix on top, starting around the edge and working my way in so it wouldn’t sink and mess up the layers.

Finally, add the fresh raspberries on top of the tarts – then eat!

Mushroom, cheese and potato pasties

First of all, let me be clear – these are NOT Cornish pasties.

Made in Cornwall, yes, but no true Cornishman would ever allow them to be known as a Cornish pasty, due to my complete disregard for the traditional contents.

They are however Cornish inspired, and are my entry for the Best of British Blogger Challenge, sponsored by New World Appliances and hosted this month by Choclette, who naturally chose the best county in England to kick off the challenge.

There is a fantastic range of local produce around at the minute, so there are any number of things I could have made using Cornish ingredients, but as pasties are what I would wager the majority of people think of when the words ‘Cornish’ and ‘food’ are mentioned, that was what I wanted to do.

Being a non-meat eater I obviously had to put my own spin on the traditional recipe, and while these are not in any way traditional, they are rather tasty and a worthy vegetarian offering.

The usual cheese and onion pasty fillings of potato, cheese and onion are given a bit of jazzing up by the combination of regular and sweet potatoes and the addition of mushrooms and fresh herbs.

I’m far from an expert when it comes to crimping pasties, but I’m actually quite proud of how these turned out – not quite bakery standard but maybe I’m on the way!

Mushroom, cheese and potato pasties

(makes 6 medium pasties)

For the pastry:

  • 200g butter, chilled in the freezer
  • 400g strong white flour
  • 1/2 beaten egg (keep the other half for glazing)
  • 50ml (ish) water

Take the block of butter out of the freezer, wrap foil around the end to hold it, and grate into the bowl of flour. Mix the butter in with a knife, then add the beaten egg and the water until it comes together as a dough – you may need a little more or less water so add it slowly. Chill in the fridge while you make the filling.

For the filling:

  • 1 medium potato
  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 onion
  • 250g mushrooms
  • 100g cheese (any would be ok, but for Cornish-ness I used Davidstow Cheddar)
  • Handful fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tbsp single cream

Peel and dice the potatoes into 1cm cubes, then spread out in a baking tray and sprinkle with the dried thyme. Bake at 180 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until almost cooked through. Meanwhile, finely chop the onion and slice the mushrooms, and fry over a medium heat until softened. Add to a bowl with the potatoes and leave to cool.

Chop the cheese into small cubes, then stir into the vegetables with the cream and fresh thyme leaves. You could use more dried herbs, but I have a crazy thyme plant that just won’t stop growing and needs to be used!

Take the pastry out of the fridge and divide into 6 equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll each out into a circle a little larger than a side plate, then use the plate to cut around for a perfect circle.

Add a dollop of the filling into the middle and spread out towards one side of the pastry, making sure to leave about an inch all the way around the edge.

Brush the edges with the remaining egg, and fold the pastry over to seal the sides around the filling.

To crimp the pasties, start with the flat edge towards you, then fold over the right hand corner of the edge to begin. Fold the edge over in a sort of rolling motion, working your way around from right to left until you get to the other side.

Transfer to a baking sheet, brush all over with the egg and add a few steam holes on top. Bake at 180 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until golden, crisp and piping hot. Serve hot or cold – they’re also great for the pony to take to work and heat up for lunch!

Cheesy rough puff twists

Last weekend, the pony made a shocking announcement – he wanted a cake-free week.

This put me into a bit of a panic as a weekend without baking just wouldn’t seem right, but after a quick think I realised it was a good chance to try something savoury for a change.

These cheesy twists are incredibly simple really, all you need is some puff pastry, cheese, and an egg. Using ready-made pastry would sort of defeat the point of wanting to bake something though, so I decided to have a go at making my own.

I followed this Gordon Ramsey recipe, as it sounded dead simple and didn’t need lots of chilling and re-rolling.

I was really pleased with how it turned out – not quite as many layers as shop-bought puff, but deliciously buttery and flaky – and I think the twists themselves definitely look as good as the ones you can buy!

I’ll certainly be using this recipe again the next time I need a quick pastry fix, and the twists went down well with the pony as an alternative to the usual sweet treats – result!

Cheesy rough puff twists

  • 300g rough puff pastry (half Gordon’s recipe)
  • 100g hard cheese , grated- I used Red Leicester which gave the twists a really nice colour
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1tsp ground black pepper

Roll out the pastry on a floured work surface to a rectangle approximately 20cm wide x 50/60cm long.

Brush the top with the beaten egg, then sprinkle about 3/4 of the grated cheese all over the top. Cut the pastry lengthways into four slices, each about 2.5cm wide.

To roll the twists, begin by folding over the bottom left hand corner, bringing it over to be in line with the right hand side of the pastry strip. Fold the bottom of the strip over to the right again, at about a 120 degree angle. Keep folding the pastry over in the same direction – as you do this you’ll see the pattern of the twist forming. Try to leave a bit of a gap for the filling to show through the twist. This is my step-by-step photo guide, hopefully it will make sense!

Once you’ve folded all four twists, place on a baking sheet, brush with a little more egg, then sprinkle the black pepper and remaining cheese on top.

Bake at 200 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until puffed up, golden and bubbling. You can either eat them warm or leave to cool, up to you!

Croissants

Making your own croissants is a hassle. A really, massive, time-consuming hassle.

But so worth it.

As I had some holiday to take from work but nowhere to actually go on holiday to, I decided it would be the perfect time to try my hand at croissants.

Although no stage of the making process is actually that hard, there are a lot of resting, chilling and rising stages, which means you need pretty much a full day to do it (and a spare 10 minutes the night before to get it started).

I followed the recipe from the Great British Bake Off – How To Bake book, as it had very clear step-by-step instructions that looked pretty easy to follow.

The recipe covers 3 pages so I’m not going to type it all out here, so I’m afraid you’ll have to go boy the book (or find someone else who has blogged it!) if you want to give it a try – but I would definitely recommend you do!

The croissants came out brilliantly – they looked flaky and golden, had exactly the right texture and tasted buttery and delicious.

Even the ones made from the off-cuts of the pastry looked pretty good – you can see from the photo below the layers aren’t quite as defined but they still tasted great!